Northern Territory - November 2020
Hello Fellows and trainees of the Territory.
By the time you read this your Committee will have met again to draft our workplan. This will document the aims of the committee for the next two years around the themes of membership experience, education and professional development, career and workforce, research and leadership, advocacy and influence, as well as effectiveness and sustainability. Please speak with us directly or contact us through the RACP NT staff email if there are issues that the NT committee should be focusing on that affect your training, practice or well-being.
In September the College Board had a Q&A meeting for NT members through the ‘Conversations with the Board’ videoconference that was very informative. It was an opportunity ask and provide feedback on a number of topics including college advocacy, training issues in the territory and the role of the college in COVID-19 responses.
In October I met with the Minister for Health. We hope that this will be the first of many meetings where the Committee can advocate for our membership and the population we serve.
The committee has real concerns for the wellbeing of Fellows and trainees. This will be a focus for us moving forward. Please be aware that there are resources for our members who find themselves in need of support through the RACP website.
Dr Richard Budd MBChB MRCP (UK) (Resp Med) FRACP FRCP Edin.
Chair, NT Regional Committee
2020 is shaping up to be an interesting and challenging year for most. Australia-wide, there has been a lot of unknowns around exams, jobs and training progression causing undue stress. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to address these issues from both the RACP and the College Trainees Committee (CTC). More specifically, in the Northern Territory, our registrars rotating from interstate are finding themselves unpredictability away from their 'base' hospitals pre-exams and NT employees applying for work interstate are finding difficulties with applications and transparency from interstate hospitals, adding to the stress.
It is important to remember and acknowledge that challenge often forces positive development and change, personally and systematically. Hospitals such as Alice Springs Hospital have been privileged to be involved in clinical training for Basic Trainees for the first time and have developed an excellent program for candidates within a short amount of time. This has been a unique opportunity and of benefit for not only the candidates but also the Advanced Trainees and physicians involved in teaching.
Local NT trainees have been provided with extra support by senior staff to facilitate interstate job applications and this issue has been raised with the CTC to be addressed at their next meeting. Such achievements should be commended and celebrated.
As a Committee, we aim to listen to your concerns and advocate on your behalf. We meet regularly with the RACP NT Regional Committee and the Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand College Training Committee to be able to convey your concerns upwards and to feedback important information. We always strive to improve trainees experiences and want to hear from you if you have concerns or ideas. Even better...why not join us. If you'd like to join us, please complete the Expression of Interest form located on the website and send to Lana Rohde.
To help enrich your experience in the Northern Territory, we recommend the excellent cultural competency resources put together by RACP. It features a local lecture series and other exciting events available by Zoom, as well as the College Learning Series.
If you need support, please ask for help. The NT Government Employee Assistance Program provides free psychology services for all government health employees and their families. The RACP support program, Converge is a confidential service available 24 hours, seven days a week. It is free for Fellows and trainees.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Dr Kirsty Neal and Dr Hannah Bills
Northern Territory Trainees’ Committee Co-Chairs
The location for RACP Congress 2021 has been unveiled and it is… everywhere. Spread over six cities, two countries and streaming live, it has never been easier to attend.
Under the theme of Transformation: Adapting for the future, RACP Congress 2021 will explore diverse topics that address ideas of transforming the way we deliver healthcare, how we look after ourselves in a connected age and what we need to know to prepare ourselves and our practice to remain relevant.
Navigating life as an Infectious Diseases Physician in the Northern Territory
“Dr Sarah Lynar” – the first time I heard it, I felt simultaneously the thrill of this new identity and an overwhelming feeling that I had no idea what it meant. It seemed to come with the weight of societal and personal expectation that I would suddenly embody an omniscient calm in all facets of both work and life. I guess that’s what the vocation of physician traditionally meant, yet I felt none of that.
With a healthy dose of imposter syndrome and an equally unhealthy personal pressure to achieve, I threw myself into the physician's training pathway. Many hours of unpaid overtime became the norm, a sort of rite of passage as it is for many, and my sense of meaning came to be intertwined with positive patient outcomes.
After time working this way, I realised I was no longer certain who I was away from the ‘doctor’ title. Although I had friends outside work and did a few extracurricular things, I felt like so much of my identity now relied on my vocation. Even when I wasn’t working, I felt like I was a doctor before all else. I decided to take 18 months off.
I know it’s cliché, but somehow in those 18 months I discovered something more within myself. I travelled, volunteered, spent time in my hometown, and made friends who knew me just as Sarah. Gradually, I remembered what else made me tick. I realised I still enjoyed medicine and found it rewarding, but also that I needed to fill myself up from different cups. To keep myself grounded, and allow myself to be everything I am, not just the physician. Returning to medicine, I embraced this new perspective.
Entering the infectious diseases training pathway seemed like a step in the same direction. From microscopic laboratory work to international public health, it promised both depth and diversity of practice, perhaps a suitable way to continue this self-actualising adventure. When the opportunity to come to Darwin arose, I was excited for even more new experiences. I would be able to work with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds, learn about fascinating tropical diseases, and spend time with colleagues who have pioneered in the medical field in so many ways in this unique landscape.
It certainly did not disappoint. Now nearly five years into my time in Darwin, and three years since achieving my fellowship, I have settled into what many people might call a relatively hectic routine. I am a staff specialist at Royal Darwin Hospital, and also do part-time work as a research fellow at Menzies School of Health Research, with projects in Timor-Leste on antimicrobial resistance and usage. As clinical lead for the Infection Prevention and Management Unit and Hospital in the Home, the year 2020 certainly has particularly been a challenging one.
My work life feels like a thousand guideline revisions and an equivalent number of meetings, interspersed with the occasional clinical ward service. I do feel this has provided me with the opportunity to rapidly gain skills that otherwise it may have taken years to acquire, and for this I am grateful. However, I’m always aware of my need to strike a balance between office work and clinical patient contact, to keep my mind open and alive.
Infectious Diseases practice in the Top End really is as varied and fascinating as people say. I have often marveled at how few ‘straight-forward’ patient interactions we have. Sadly, much of the patient complexity stems from social determinants of health, over which we as physicians have very little influence. But I am slowly learning how we can still do our small part.
I have been introduced to many new diseases since moving up here. Melioidosis, an infection due to the organism Burkholderia pseudomallei, is a disease seen primarily during the wet season in tropical northern areas in Australia. Aside from its clinical management, I have learnt that even small interventions like adjusting hypoglycaemics or providing better shoes can impact a person’s risk for this potentially life-threatening disease. Rheumatic heart disease is consequence of infection that has been eliminated in most other developed countries but is still wreaking havoc in many of our communities. Again, an approach that values all aspects of health, including recognising and valuing the strong pull of culture and community, has been pivotal in making any inroads toward its elimination.
Crusted scabies is another common reason for presentation here that I had previously only read about in textbooks. Happily, its frequency is now declining, a testament to a lot of hard work by many. My experience here with this disease has shown me how to properly value a multidisciplinary approach rather than focusing on managing the organism alone. I watch nurses and other educators drive to communities to make sure people have working washing machines, personally collecting patients they are worried about to bring them in for review. Podiatrists trim a patient’s toenails to reduce the mite burden, despite being run off their feet themselves (pun intended). Public health and infection control staff tirelessly contact trace while trying not to focus too hard on the fact that the patient’s infection has already recurred numerous times. Aboriginal health workers collaborate with local artists to create storyboards as educational tools. Through all of these efforts, it has been a privilege to watch many patients, often ostracised within their community and initially refusing to come out from under their covers, come alive with confidence and health as their skin clears.
Aside from doctoring, I have had the opportunity to discover a beautiful music community in Darwin, the likes of which I had not been a part for many years prior due to long hours and distances in a larger city. The relatively small geographical size and remoteness of Darwin has meant that despite my amateur instrumental skills (mostly on trumpet these days), I have found a niche in musical groups of a variety of genres. From orchestral and choral, to funk, reggae, jazz and gypsy music, I have been welcomed into an eclectic and quirky community that allows me to be me. It has certainly been a challenge as a medical perfectionist, accepting that I cannot be an expert in this area. After all, professional musicians have hours to practice each day, and I have barely enough time to make it to our scheduled rehearsals. But perhaps this is part of why it is so good for me – it is a way to keep humble, and to focus more on the process and experience than a perfect result.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the theory that there are different kinds of rest. Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social and creative rest have all been touted as life necessities. Anyone that looks at my life probably thinks I must be constantly tired, from a physical perspective. And sometimes that’s true of course. However, packing most evenings with rehearsals or performances rejuvenates me in ways that lying on the couch can not. It gives me mental rest, away from patient and colleague expectation. For classical music I am given notes on a page, removing any need for decision-making and allowing me simply to follow. For the genres in which I am expected to improvise, I am given rest from words and structure, and instead am allowed to be creative and explore communal sounds. The process and experience of music is also an opportunity for emotional rest, reminding me that the glorious still exists even when the day has been filled with sadness or the stress of difficult choices.
In Darwin, I get the privilege of experiencing life alongside Australians that have worldviews very different to my own. This makes working in the Top End both a challenge and a reward. I will always remember one Indigenous lady who asked to leave the cold ‘tower’ of the hospital to return to country (a very common request here). I asked her what she needed to do on return, thinking perhaps there was a funeral to attend or commitment to fulfil. Instead she answered matter-of-factly that on return she would simply ‘be happy’. That moment reminded me of why I am here. I am slowly learning that life is about so much more than titles or expectations. It is not always about doing and perfecting, but also about being and sharing life with people. People here are not a ‘problem to fix’, as many have been treated in the past, but are experts at ‘being’ in a deeper sense. Being in community, being on country, being part of family, and being inextricably linked to culture and tradition.
I am an Infectious Diseases Physician, and I get to do and see some really interesting things in one of the most beautiful and exotic locations in Australia. But I am also just Sarah Lynar, a lifelong learner and human being, and thoroughly enjoying the journey.
Dr Sarah Lynar
Infection Diseases Specialist, Top End, Northern Territory
Research Fellow, Global and Tropical Health Division of Menzies School of Health Research
Since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic still uncertain, we have reviewed the current delivery format to reduce public health risks associated with the exam. This includes reducing face-to-face contact with patients and reducing interstate travel for examiners and candidates.
New Exam Format
A new modular format will be used for the Adult Medicine DCE in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and the Paediatrics & Child Health DCE in Australia. The Paediatrics & Child Health DCE in Aotearoa New Zealand will continue with the existing format.
The modular format will:
- retain two Long Cases and four Short Cases
- separate the Long Cases and Short Cases so they are not held on the same day
- hold Long Cases locally with virtual patient interaction, where the patient is in a different room/location to the candidate and examiners
- hold Short Cases at least three weeks after the Long Cases in face-to-face exam settings within your state, territory, or region, where possible.
Please note you must score above a Band 0 in the Long Cases to be eligible to sit the Short Cases. The 2021 exam will use the same modular approach, subject to evaluation of the model and COVID-19. For any enquiries, please contact Member Services.
Find out more
Since July all events have still be held virtually online with Zoom. Attendance has been good and I feel participants appreciate that they can join from home or work.
A large focus over the past months has been on scheduling Supervisor Professional Development Program (SPDP) workshops. With the extended deadline, RACP supervisors now have until the end of 2022 to complete all three SPDP workshop to become RACP approved Supervisors.
Supervisors must complete:
- one SPDP workshop by the end of 2021 (an extension of 12 months)
- all remaining workshops by the end of 2022.
You'll be an RACP-approved supervisor (previously 'accredited supervisor') when you've completed all three workshops. You can complete SPDP one, two and three in any order. SPDP is considered a 'Category two: Reviewing Performance' activity in the 2020 MyCPD Framework. MyCPD participants will earn three CPD credits per hour. Further information on SPDP workshops can be found hon the SPDP webpage. Fifteen workshops are planned before the end of the year. If you would like to be notified when we have new workshops scheduled, please contact me.
You may also be interested in:
Member Support Officer SA/NT
The RACP appreciates the value and experience Indigenous and Māori doctors can provide to the health sector and communities in treating Indigenous and Māori health issues. The RACP Indigenous Health Scholarship Program provides funded pathways through physician training. Applications are now invited for 2021 Indigenous Health Scholarships. Hurry, applications close Monday, 30 November 2020.
RACP President's Indigenous Congress Prize
The RACP President's Indigenous Congress Prize
is open to medical students, junior medical officers and RACP trainees who identify as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or Māori. The selected applicant will receive support to attend the 2021 RACP Congress to gain educational and networking opportunities and exposure to career pathways within the College.
Applications for 2021 are open. Please encourage anyone you know who is eligible to apply before the deadline on Friday, 31 January 2021.
The 2020 Physician Training Survey is your chance to help strengthen RACP training programs and the workplace experiences in the settings in which you work and train. Open until Wednesday, 2 December, with the impacts of COVID-19 on training throughout this year, it’s even more important for us to understand your experience. By completing the survey, you can also enter the prize draw with a chance of winning one of two iPad Pros (256GB, cellular).
The survey is open to all trainees and educators across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. It's run by ENGINE, an independent research provider to ensure that responses are completely anonymous. Look out for an email and SMS from them with your unique survey link. Please check your junk folder if you don’t think you’ve received this link, or email them if you would like it resent.
The more responses we get, the more representative data we have to help inform changes and improvements to physician training programs. This includes improvements for trainee and educator wellbeing. For information about the survey, including confidentiality and the prize draw, please visit the Physician Training Survey webpage.
The Physician Training Survey has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) – Concord Repatriation General Hospital of the Sydney Local Health District 2019/ETH12472. If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of the research study, you may contact the Executive Officer of the Ethics Committee, at SLHDfirstname.lastname@example.org or on +61 2 9767 5622.
Seeking expressions of interest for the development of an Indigenous genomic healthcare resource
Join a working group to contribute to the development of the Genomic Healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People online learning resource. This resource will cover genetic and genomic healthcare provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It will address key clinical aspects as well as historical and cultural contexts.
New online course on thalidomide
The new thalidomide online course aims to introduce Australasian medical specialists to thalidomide and thalidomide embryopathy (TE), and their implications for thalidomide survivors today.
By completing this course, you will:
- develop a background knowledge of thalidomide and TE, the history attached to these and a basic knowledge of the range of birth defects, mechanism of action and current uses
- understand the range of secondary health problems from age-related deterioration and special considerations for medical investigation and management
- understand the implications of TE for other health conditions and for healthy living
- know where to locate further resources and support on TE for patients, healthcare professionals and researchers.
RACP Online Learning resources are free for members and count towards Continuing Professional Development requirements.
Doctors for Doctors – Support always available
South Australian and Northern Territory doctors are able to access the doctors for doctors' 24 hours a day, seven days a week phone support service. It is answered by Doctors’ Health SA’s (DHSA) General Practitioners. You can reach them by calling +61 8 8366 0250.
It is important for all doctors to have their own GP. The DHSA after-hours GP Clinic has appointments available. All details are on their website and if you are in the NT, you can find a GP. DHSA GPs also provide telemedicine consults for NT and SA doctors. You can contact the DHSA Clinic on +61 8 8232 1250 or email them.
Interested in knowing more about Doctors' Health?
Doctors’ Health SA led the development of the national online modules ' Healthy Medical Profession - Caring for Ourselves and Our Colleagues. This is a free two-hour online module for all doctors, self-paced, and receive a Certificate upon completion.
You are invited to free one-hour sessions aimed at specialists, practice managers and practice nurses who are interested in learning more about My Health Record and how to use it most effectively in routine practice. Run via GoTo webinar platform, these sessions will afford an opportunity for participants to raise questions directly with the instructor and, if time permits, discuss other issues encountered in using My Health Record. These demonstrations will be run on a weekly basis at varying times throughout the day.
Using a software simulation platform, the instructor will demonstrate how to:
- access a patient’s My Health Records via conformant software
- use filters to find documents
- view documents and overviews
- enter access codes for patients with protected documents/records
- upload documents to My Health Record
- ensure appropriate security and access governance mechanisms are in place.
For more information on other session times or for follow-up My Health Record support for your practice, please email the Digital Health Agency
The RACP Support Program is a fully confidential and independent help line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is free for Fellows and trainees.
The RACP places the utmost importance on the wellbeing of its members. It can be difficult to balance the pressures of the workplace, interactions with colleagues and personal relationships. If you are having a hard time, we encourage you to contact Converge to organise a free session.
What are the opening hours of the SA/NT Regional Office?
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. This is unchanged as staff work from home due to COVID-19 measures.
Where is the SA/NT Regional Office located?
The SA/NT Regional Office is currently closed to members and staff are currently working from home. However, the address is: Suite 7, Level 2, 257 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide SA 5006
What is the contact number for the SA/NT Regional Office?
You can reach our office on +61 8 8465 0970 or Member Services on 1300 697 227.
Where can I park at the SA/NT Regional Office?
Two hour street parking is available in Melbourne Street and all-day parking opposite the Old Lion Hotel (fees apply). A reminder that the office is currently closed.
How do I book a meeting?
Although the office is currently closed due to COVID-19, we can assist you with booking virtual meetings. Please email us or call +61 8 8465 0970.
ASI Solutions has created an exclusive portal for our Australian members to purchase Microsoft Surface devices and accessories at group discount pricing. Log in to MYRACP and click through to the ASI portal. You will need to set up an account with ASI Solutions to access the offer. If you have any questions please contact ASI Solutions.
The business range of Surface devices is uniquely placed to support you in your everyday work and professional learning. Coupled with your choice of the right software and cloud services to meet your unique needs, the beautifully-engineered Surface devices deliver secure access to information and allow deep communication and collaboration wherever you are.
Please note the RACP is publishing this offer as a service to members. Such publication does not constitute endorsement.
*Offers only available to current RACP members that are Australian residents. ASI Solutions respects your privacy. Please read their online Privacy Statement